Monday, 11 August 2014

Cheese - a story of endurance!

Wensleydale Triathlon 2014 - The Spectators Story;

Four CFRT members of questionable sanity tackled & successfully completed the Full Cheese Triathlon on Sunday morning in very challenging conditions; Georgia, Kris H and the ever competitive Chris & Rob Wright all toed the start-line in conditions that could only be described as 'pretty miserable'.  Billed as one of the UK's hardest triathlons the weather conspired with the event organisers to ensure this would be a thoroughly challenging day!

The event is (it has to be said) an odd one; non standard distances, spilt transitions and terrain that is frankly stomach churning in its severity (and that's just the drive to the swim start!). Ah yes - the swim start, billed as a 2000m or was it a 3000m swim (depending if you believe the website or the information board at the event), the black surface of Semer Water was unusually calm as the 70 or so competitors (it takes a special breed to enter this one & turn up on race day) gingerly made their way over the granite and limestone boulders into the lake and were shortly under way (after not much of a warm up by anyone it has to be said... the foreboding of what lay ahead firmly suppressing the desire to waste any energy).  By all accounts the water was 'nice' if not somewhat shallow (confirmed by many competitors choosing to walk around buoys rather than waste energy throwing in 90 degree swim turns).  As the motley crew of spectators huddled under hoods and umbrellas (the weather was quickly deteriorating into very spectator unfriendly conditions) the swim field spread and made progress - one lap then two, with a lone swimmer emerging victorious after 41 minutes - a blinding swim.  First CFRT out of the water was Rob in a time of 52 mins, who made good progress in T1 and departed bike in hand just as brother Chris entered transition (calling to Rob 'I'm coming to get you!'). Two minutes later Georgia emerged from the lake after a very strong swim, determined to treat this as any other event with a dash into T1 and not even a second thought to putting on any extra clothing bar the compulsory helmet (much to the distress of at least two spectators, and one probably more than the other...).  So all but one accounted for, having reveled in the accolade as second last out of the water last year Kris H was hoping not to better this one & he did not disappoint; (I counted at least five people behind him!).

So everyone was now off on the bike course. To say the bike course is hilly would be ridiculously understating how challenging the 42 mile bike leg is; so as not to lull any competitors into a false sense of security they only have to cycle 200 metres before they encounter this sign! 


The first of many, many such signs on the course.  Now we all love hills, some like going up others like going down but its fair to say that nobody really enjoys going down in the wet & this is what would make the day a challenge for everyone racing.  The spectators were now alone just left with our hopes and fears for what lay ahead out on the course; the ascent to Askrigg common (300 metres climbing over 3 kilometres - do the math as Johnny Ball would say) was the first real test for the legs, then our warriors would soon be going up to the Cote du Buttertubs (not the leisurely climb that le Tour did, but up the hard way from Muker). Now approaching half way the course then heads west and goes over some more glorious terrain on its way to Dent Station before turning and heading back east towards Hawes and T2.

Bike-leg Terrain - be afraid, be very afraid...

Back to the rain soaked spectators - who had made the perilous journey back to Hawes and secured themselves enviable parking positions just beside the finishing line and a stone's throw from the hog roast stall!  After much looking at wristwatches, estimating average speeds (drinking tea and some food consumption; it would be remiss of us to let our energy levels fall) and generally getting really nervous a cyclist appeared - first man in, member of a relay team covering the bike leg in a blistering 2hours 17 mins; he was allowed a brief respite before he was hauled in front of an anxious parent and interrogated as to the conditions on the course (I may be exaggerating, but such was the palpable tension in the air given that the wind was up and the rain was coming in bands ranging from torrential to drizzle it was a time fraught with countless scenarios of woe but above all optimism that all would be safe!).  

Who would be first on the bike? Well I would like to say we didn't have long to wait to find out, but I'd be fibbing - we were however delighted to see a jubilant Chris Wright appear after 2hours and 50 minutes toiling up and down dale - ever smiling and making good progress through T2 briefing the spectators as to the harrowing experience that was the bike course & then he was gone off on the run leg.  Some 13 minutes later Rob appeared in very good spirits and 10 minutes behind him a somewhat dazed Georgia, seemingly struggling to comprehend what had just happened for the last 3 hours. But after a short 2 minutes in T2 a phoenix rose, (sporting new fell shoes) and ran purposely from the field to the awaiting Great Shunner Fell - a sight to behold; this was going to be a good run spilt and everyone knew it!  And now, once more we needed our 4th team member! After much pacing, watch checking and sucking of teeth a glorious flash of orange and blue appeared sat astride his cross-bike! A little over 4 hours & Kris was in T2 pulling on his "slipper like" fell shoes and without the slightest hesitation (well maybe a teeny weeny bit) he was off on the run! Back to the waiting game for our intrepid spectators!

Now, as another event was running concurrently (the Half-Cheese Triathlon) things started to become a little blurred with regards to who had done what and which distance they had completed from a spectators perspective; more interrogation was required - and such was the relaxed attitude of the organisers, the CFRT spectator duo intuitively formed the unofficial race-finishers de-briefing service in an attempt to reward the early race finishers and make up for the wholly underwhelming reception! After approximately two hours of performing a sterling service to the finishers of the Half-Cheese event (including occasional CFRT swimmer and partner to Georgia, Nathan Gibson who chose the event as his first ever triathlon - Nathan had an outstanding race and finished in sixth place overall & reported he had been truly bitten by the triathlon bug!  Also racing was Nathan's friend Ben Forster - also a Triathlon first timer.  Ben finished in 28th place - however, Ben wasn't content with running half way up Great Shunner Fell and turning back to the finish, he continued (due to lack of signage & marshalling) and completed the Full-Cheese course clocking up 12 miles in a time of 1:43:25!) it was back to pacing the route, staring at watches, sucking teeth, estimating finish times & pontificating who would be the first CFRT warrior to return!

Before long we were rewarded with our first glimpse of the ever distinctive CFRT race colours as Chris Wright came into view! After 6 hours & 8 minutes Chris crossed the finish line in 26th place; 1 in 3 to go!  A mere six minutes later another flash of orange and blue as Georgia crossed the line as 2nd Lady having completed the run leg in under 2 hours, one of only nine competitors & the only lady to achieve this remarkable feat - but wow, that was a seriously impressive run!  Twenty minutes later it was Rob who came into view, finishing in 42nd place!  We were almost there - come in number 4 (they are packing away transition... and they were the swines!).  The spectators decided to actively seek out our 4th team mate and went walk about, after a brief lapse of optimism we were thoroughly elated to spot the lone figure of Kris Heskett running across a field with about 1 mile to go!  Running towards the finish line and joined by a rejuvenated Georgia there were smiles all round and much relief as our last warrior crossed the line and claimed the honour of last man home!  Kris was out there for a little under 8 hours - hat's off to a fantastic display of endurance and determination! 

The spectators were truly humbled to witness four of our finest complete what is undoubtedly one of the hardest Triathlons around! We salute you.